John Daly was the first player to average over 300 yards in driving distance for an entire season. When he achieved that feat in 2001, he was the only one to do it. In 2015, 26 players on the PGA Tour did it, while 27 maintained an average of 300 yards or more on the European Tour.
Daly was the original bomber. His ludicrous distance, monstrous overswing, outlandish outfits and devil-may-care attitude made him a fans’ favourite. Daly may not be able to dominate courses and opponents with his unrivalled distance anymore, but he is still competing, picking up a Top-10 on the PGA Tour just a few months ago.
We caught up with him to discuss highs and lows, regrets, his trousers, and being a short hitter…
You’re the only man to win two Majors and not play in a Ryder Cup – is that a disappointment?
It hurts a lot, never having played in one. The two I thought I had a real chance in were 1991, after I’d won the PGA Championship, and 2004 at Oakland Hills. That one really hurt. Hal Sutton was the captain. He told me I had to play well in the PGA, and I didn’t, so the phone never rang. In 1995, after winning The Open, I was playing terribly, so that was no surprise. But I still love it – I watched every shot at Gleneagles.
Do you enjoy seeing so many players bombing it the distance only you used to?
I’m a short hitter out here now! All the players coming out here now are stronger. The game has changed a lot. The swing has changed. A lot of it now has to do with power in the wrists. My swing is more about the whole body working together. I’ve always liked the idea of being able to shape the ball. Corey Pavin is still one of the best ball-strikers of all time. It always seemed so easy for him to move the ball right to left and vice versa, without really having to think about it.
What is your best tip for amateurs?
I would encourage them to get good at the short game. It really helps develop confidence and takes the pressure off your ball striking. People don’t realise every pro golfer only strikes the ball perfectly about 60 or 70% of the time – even the best. Amateurs are always going to want to hit the ball miles – you can’t change that. No amateur has ever come up to me and said, “Hey, John, will you help me with my chipping and putting?” It just doesn’t happen!
Are there any trousers you would deem too outrageous?
When Loudmouth first sent me the green and black Shagadelic pants, I did hesitate a little – but not for long! I love the SpongeBob SquarePants ones. My kids watch Nickelodeon all the time. The great thing about Loudmouth pants is that you can get dressed in the dark and still look great, because whatever you wear with them is sure to match!
Do you enjoy visiting Britain?
I love the crowds over here – they’ve always been amazing to me. The food is great, too, though I have an allergy to fish, so I can’t eat fish and chips. Above all, though, I love playing links golf. It suits my game. You’re going to hit good shots and get bad breaks, and bad shots and get good breaks – you just have to accept that. It’s all about survival.
You’ve had some real ups and downs in your life. Do you have any regrets?
I was shocked when I was told I’d gambled $55 to $57million. I thought it might have been $20 or $25 million. I’ve played slots for two days in a row. I’ve played blackjack for two days. The only time I’d get up is to go to the bathroom. Time goes by so fast and if you’re on a roll and you’re winning, I’d just keep on going. People are going to say I should regret it. But I did it, I had a lot of fun doing it, and now I’ve moved on. Everyone has ups and downs in their life.